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The Contagious Dynamism of Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey

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Last January 16 marked the 75th anniversary of Carole Lombard’s passing. This luminous actress tragically lost her life at the young age of 33 in a plane crash. To honour her memory, my friends Crystal from In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Laura from Phyllis Loves Classic Movies are hosting the Carole Lombard: The Profane Angel Blogathon. The event started on January 16 and is coming at its end today. I still haven’t seen a bunch of Carole Lombard’s films (six, I think), but just to see one was enough for me to appreciate her. So, I obviously couldn’t miss the occasion. My choice for the blogathon is My Man Godfrey, a 1936 screwball directed by Gregory LaCava and also starring William Powell (Carole Lombard’s first husband before Clark Gable). Carole Lombard received her first and, unfortunately, only Oscar nomination for her dynamic performance in this picture. It was also nominated for Best Director (LaCava), Best Actor (Powell), Best Supporting Actor (Mischa Auer), Best Supporting Actress (Alice Brady) and Best Screenplay (Eric Hatch and Morrie Ryskind). Interestingly, My Man Godfrey was the first film to be nominated in all the four acting categories (Wikipedia). I personally think all the cast deserved a nomination!

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My Man Godfrey presents a clash of societies during the Great Depression. It all starts when Irene (Lombard) and her sister Cornelia (Gail Patrick) Bullock detrain in a dump to find a “forgotten man” for a scavenger hunt. Cornelia sees one, Godfrey (Powell) and offers him 5$ to be her “forgotten man”. Annoyed by the idea, he asks her to leave. While he advances towards her, she falls in a pile of ashes. She leaves, bitter and angry. Irene, who is a much likeable character, stays, and Godfrey suggests to be her forgotten man to beat Cornelia at the contest. After Irene’s team win thanks to Godfrey and after he meets her family, she gives him their address as they need a new butler. So, the next morning, Godfrey arrives at their place to be hired for the job. He soon realizes that the Bullock is far from being an ordinary family (except maybe for the father played by Eugene Pallette), but he turns out to have a pretty good endurance. He, however, has to face Cornelia’s shenanigans against him and soon realizes that Irene is deeply in love with him an who had decided to make him her “protégé”.

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There are so many things happening in My Man Godfrey. The moments of calm are rare, so, if you haven’t seen it, I can assure you, you won’t be bored.

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It’s not without any reason that I personally like to call Carole Lombard “the queen of comedy” and My Man Godfrey is the proof that she was. I mean, she could play drama well too, but I believe she would mostly be remembered for her perfect comic timing. She and William Powell weren’t married anymore at the time they made the movie together (they divorced in 1933), but interestingly, it’s William Powell that suggested Carole for the part. IMDB informs us that it’s because their real life relationship was similar to Irene and Godfrey’s one. Miriam Hopkins and Constance Bennett were among the choices for the part of Irene, but to Powell’s eyes, Carole was the perfect one for the part. And he was right! She’s hilarious from the beginning until the end.

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What I’ve always liked about Carole Lombard is the when you see pictures of her, “staged pictures”, she can look very serious and dramatic, but when you see My Man Godfrey or Nothing Sacred, you realize that you have been fooled and that she is, in reality, a real clown. Although, she doesn’t look like a clown, but like a very distinguished lady, who could play comedy.

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In My Man Godfrey, Carole Lombard is… motivating. Seriously, I couldn’t pick a better world. Her energy is contagious and makes you want to be like her, even if she’s a little crazy. As we would say in French “elle fait la comédie” (“she plays the comedy”) and becomes tragic to fool people around her or to show her deception about something. But, as we know, she’s kind of faking it, so it remains hilarious. Irene Bullock makes me think a little of Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) in Bringing Up Baby, a lady who will never be ready to give up her man hunt!

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Carole makes a good team work with her fellow actors. Her chemistry with Powell is unbelievable and that might be one of the best things about the film. Her opposition with Cornelia (Gail Patrick) is perfect. They are like real sisters if you see what I mean. 😉

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Something I also like about Carole Lombard is the fact that she has some of the best lines. I think that along with Network’s ” I am mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore”, “Godfrey loves me! He put me in the shower!” is my favourite movie line. It doesn’t make much sense, plus Carole’s facial expression when she says it is priceless. So, it remains a pretty hilarious moment.

Here are some other Carol Lombard’s quotes from My Man Godfrey that are quite memorable and reflects quite well the atmosphere of the film:

1- Godfrey: Do you think you could follow an intelligent conversation for a minute?

Irene: I’ll try.

2- Irene: You have a wonderful sense of humor. I wish I had a sense of humor, but I can never think of the right thing to say until everybody’s gone home.

3- Godfrey: These flowers just came for you, miss. Where shall I put them?

Irene: What difference does it make where one puts flowers when one’s heart is breaking?

Godfrey: Yes, miss. Shall I put them on the piano?

4- Irene: Life is but an empty bubble. (That’s deep haha.)

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As we were honouring Carole Lombard in this blogathon, I mostly decided to focus on her for my article, but, of course, there will be many other things to discuss. I’ll leave you with that fun movie bloopers video for your own entertainment. Enjoy! 🙂

 

A big thanks to Laura and Crystal for hosting this event! You can read the other entries by click on this picture:

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Carole Lombard left us too soon, but she’ll be in our hearts forever ❤ RIP beautiful angel.

See you!

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Seriously, isn’t that the cutest face ever?
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When Cary Grant Became Invisible… Topper (1937)

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Cary Grant is one of those actors that everybody loves or, at least, likes. There is so much about him that can easily charm us and makes him become a favourite. The man itself once said ” Everybody wants to be Cary Grant. Even I want to be Cary Grant.” He is my 4th favourite actor behind James Stewart, William Holden and Marlon Brando.

Sadly, like most classic movie stars, Cary Grant is no longer with us. He passed away on November 29, 1986, at the age of 82. To honour him on his 30th death anniversary, the wonderful Laura from Phyllis Love Classic Movies has decided to honour him with one amazing blogathon: the Cary Grant Blogathon

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Apart from starring in four Hitchcock movies from 1941 to 1959, Cary appeared in a great deal of memorable comedies such as Bringing Up Baby or Arsenic and Old Lace. The man always had a unique sense of fun, a humour that was proper to him. For the blogathon, it’s one of those comedies I chose: Topper, a 1937’s film directed by Norman Z. McLeod and also starring Constance Bennett, Roland Young, Billie Burk, Eugene Palette, Alan Mowbray and Arthur Lake.

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Topper is a ghost story. Ouuuh! But it’s somehow too glamorous to be an Halloween movie. The story goes like this: Marion and George Kerby, a rich and extravagant couple, dies in a car accident. So, they become ghosts. They can turn invisible if they like to. George’s banker,  Cosmo Topper, lives a boring and ordinary life with his wife Clara who constantly watches his diet and takes care of every minute of his schedule. After Marion and George’s death, Cosmo realises that life is too short for such a repetitive routine and wants to have some fun, but, for his wife, it’s out of question. Marion and George have to do a good action to go to heaven, which they, unfortunately, haven’t done in their life as living beings, but irresponsible human beings… So, they decide to help Cosmo Topper to a better life, a funnier and crazier one.

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We can’t deny the success that Topper had, as the result in the making of two sequels: Topper Takes a Trip in 1938 and Topper Returns in 1941; a TV-movie remake in 1979; and even a television series in the 50s. Unfortunately, none of these star Cary Grant.

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Somehow, before I saw this film for the first time, I thought it involved a rabbit  because the name “Topper” made me think of “Thumper”, the name of the rabbit in Bambi. But anyway, what sort of a name is this, Topper? It doesn’t sound very serious for a banker, no? 😉

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Topper is one of those Cary Grant’s movies that, just like Bringing Up Baby makes you want to enter in your television screen and go have some fun with Cary Grant and the others. I mean, Cary Grant was making truly cool and amusing films.

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Just look at the beginning of this film: Cary Grant is driving a car with his feet (!), then he goes party all night with his wife Constance Bennett. They dance, they sing and they even go down a slide in a fun restaurant. And to end this beautifully, they sleep in their car, just in front of Topper’s bank, so George won’t be late for the is meeting. All this happens while they are still alive, but as dead people who can turn invisible, the fun can just be better.

Cary Grant singing and driving with his feet in the film’s first scene:

But while Cary does the clown, he always remains very elegant. This might be due to his impeccable and unique accent, or to his chic allure and his right posture.

Cary also makes a wonderful pair with Constance Bennett. As I said before, they form one of the coolest on-screen couple, one you would just like to imitate, minor the car accident! In this film, Constance Bennett sort of makes me think of a mix of Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby) and Carole Lombard. She follows the energetic, comic and, yet elegant pattern of those ladies.

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While I was re-watching the film for the blogathon, I really had to try not to laugh too hard, because I was in a public library! But there are some truly hilarious moments. My favourite one is when Topper is drunk and George and Marion carry him, but they are invisible. So he just seems to walk in a very weird way like if he a puppet or something like that.

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The film also impresses for its special effects. How do objects could move by themselves in movies from the 30s? Computers didn’t exist back then. The most impressive scene (for the special effects) is when George changes the tire of his car while his invisible. Everything is executed with an impeccable agility and synchronism.

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Topper is a fantastic comedy, but also has something of a screwball comedy and, due to that, contains some memorable lines, such has:

1- Cosmo Topper: Good morning, Clara.

Mrs. Topper: Good morning, dear. You’re late.

Cosmo Topper: Oh… better late than never. Only 44 seconds, anyhow.

(poor Topper- definitely my favourite line of the film)

2- Cosmo Topper: [drunk] Well, that’s how I dance. How do you like it?

George Kerby: [smiles and nods politely] Yes, I thought that was pretty – bad.

3- Marion Kerby: I don’t think he’s ever had a drink in his life.

George Kerby: Poor Topper.

Marion Kerby: Poor Topper.

Cosmo Topper: [mutters] Poor Topper.

George Kerby: You keep out of this.

4-  Cosmo Topper: Can’t you even *look* like a human being?

Wilkins: I don’t know, sir, I’ve never tried.

5- Mrs. Topper: Wilkins, after all these years, are you trying to be funny?

(Wilkins is the Topper’s butler)

6- Casey: [referring to Topper] Did you notice something funny about that guy?

Elevator Boy: That guy ain’t funny, he ain’t even human!

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There would be much more to discuss about Topper and about Cary Grant, but, unfortunately, I have to stop here. In end of term period, the time for blogging is unfortunately too short…

Anyway, I hope this gave you a good preview and convinced you to see the film if you haven’t because it’s a truly delicious comedy.

A big thanks to Laura for hosting this blogathon! It was a great idea!

Don’t forget to check the other entries:

Cary Grant Blogathon – Day 1

Cary Grant Blogathon – Day 2

Cary Grant Blogathon – Day 3 

See you!

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Thing Like Cricket!: The Friendship of Charters and Caldicott

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This weekend, Debbie from Moon in Gemini is hosting the You Gotta Have Friends Blogathon, honouring the beautiful thing that friendship is, on and off the screen. I was, for the occasion, inspired to write about the notorious British characters Charters and Caldicott, two friends portrayed by Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne.

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It all started with The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock, 1938). This Hitchcock’s suspense is known for its variety of characters rich in personality and this includes Charters and Caldicott.

The two fellows are best known for being cricket addicts. They are always talking about it and for them, it seems that it’s all that matters in the world. In The Lady Vanishes, they are on their way back to Manchester for the Test Match and they simply CANNOT miss their train connexion at Bâle.

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On her side, Iris Henderson (Margaret Lockwood) has lost her friend Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty) and suspects something has happened to her. Oddly enough, everybody on the train tells her they haven’t seen her. Iris looks for witnesses and remembers Miss Froy had talked to Charters and Caldicott in the restaurant wagon when they were having tea. The two men pretend they don’t remember it, as they don’t want anything to interfere with their hurry to arrive in Manchester on time.

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See, cricket is the most important thing in life for them. They simply refuse to help because of it! And when Iris ask them how things like cricket can make them forget, it’s the supreme insult!

But as much as they try to avoid it, Charters and Caldicott will eventually be involved in the train situation that implies a bunch of spies.

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After having read that, you might think that Charters and Caldicott are not very sympathetic characters. But you are wrong. Their appearance in The Lady Vanishes was so appreciated by the public that they appeared in 3 other films: Night Train to Munich (Carol Reed, 1940), Crook’s Tour (John Baxter, 1941) and Millions Like Us (Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder, 1943). They were also part of the BBC radio serials Crook’s Tour and Secret Mission 609. A one season TV series called Charters & Caldicott was made in the 80s, but this one obviously doesn’t star Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford.

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Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne appeared in 8 other films together as different characters: The Next of Kin, Dead of Night, A Girl in a Million, Quartet, It’s Not Cricket, Passport to Pimlico, Stop Press Girl, and Helter Skelter. 

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Charters and Caldicott are like peas and carrots. One couldn’t exist without the other. They simply are like non-identical twins and their personalities connect perfectly. We have no doubt they have a big complicity and we’ll have the tendency to think that they met at a cricket match and discovered a common passion. They seem to be a bit selfish and snobbish, but, somehow, they are always involved in a political conflict: in The Lady Vanishes they take part in the final fight and help the “good ones” to escape with the train and cross the border. In Night Train to Munich, they help an old friend, Dickie Randall (Rex Harrison), and also Anna Bomasch (Margaret Lockwood) and her father Axel Bomasch (James Harcourt) to escape from the Nazis. In Crook’s Tour, they became owners, by accident, of a record containing secret instructions for the German Intelligence. Their appearance is very brief in Million’s Like Us, but once again they are here to help their country as two English soldiers fighting in the war (the second one).

Because yes, despite their indifference toward life, Charters and Caldicott turn out to be two jolly good fellows that are always willing to help. They are “very British” and would do everything to save the faith of their country, even if it includes risking their own life.

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Charters and Caldicott are English gentlemen that are hilarious and this, unwittingly. First, because of their strong and comical devotion to cricket, something that is quite anodyne. Then, for always putting themselves in some ridiculous situations, but always trying to be serious. I can think of this scene when they have to sleep in the maid’s room at the inn in The Lady Vanishes or when Charters has his face covered with whip cream when he attempts to pick save the famous record in Crook’s Tour.

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Their way of thinking and their life priorities are rather amusing too. One of the best examples is when, in Nigh Train to Munich, they learned that England is at war, and the first thing Charters thinks about is what will happen to his gold clubs (!). Or when, in the same film, Charters is reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf as if it was some little easy going lecture, as if it was an Archie Comic or something like that!

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Charters and Caldicott are always talking about cricket, but the funny thing is, in all the four films we actually never see them attending a match or playing themselves. No, they always seem to be travelling together, in countries with an unstable political situation.   This makes their character even more interesting and we surely are curious to know more about their life in England.

We have the pleasure to watch the four Charters and Caldicott films as each of them gives us more information about their life and their personality. In The Lady Vanishes, we don’t know much about them, except for the fact that they are cricket addicts. Bon. Then, in Night Train to Munich, we know that Caldicott went to college AND had a friend named Dickie Randall. We also know that Charters is not only a cricket’s addict, but also a golf ‘s addict. And, finally, we discover how patriotic they are, and how to be treated as good British subjects is very important to them (even if the German don’t seem to give a damn at all…). Crook’s Tour maybe is the most revealing of the three as Charters and Caldicott are the main characters of the film. The story depends on him. Here, we learn that Caldicott is engaged to Charter’s sister, the very authoritarian Edith (Noel Hood), who doesn’t seem to be an idealistic choice for him. We also learn their first name: Sinclair Caldicott and Hawtrey Charters. We realize how they are important to each other when Charters thinks he has killed Caldicott by accident (but he hasn’t). His traumatized face tells us a lot about how he regrets it. Poor Charters! And also, one of my favourite things about this film is the fact that Caldicott is in love! Not with Charter’s sister, but with the beautiful exotic dancer La Palermo (Greta Gynt). He’s too adorable when he smiles too her, hypnotized. And it’s in Crook’s Tour that we’ll see the only Caldicott’s on-screen kiss. So, Charters and Caldicott actually have feelings and can also be in love with girls and not only with cricket! Finally, in Millions Like Us, we learn that Caldicott has a wife, but we don’t really know who it is. Could it be La Palermo???

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Caldicott in love!
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Noel Hood as Edith Charters
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Greta Gynt as La Palermo

 

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Charters and Caldicott are one of the best examples of what best friends are. Always, calling each other “old man”, they do not only have very connective personalities, but always seems to get along well. We indeed never or rarely see them angry at each other. They are perfect travelling companions and their complicity is contagious.

The Lady Vanishes, Night Train to Munich, Crook’s Tour and Millions Like Us certainly wouldn’t have been the same without their presence. They form one of the most appreciable duos of the British screen. Of course, their interprets were brilliant too. Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne built those unique personalities and gave them the perfect essence to become first class characters.

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Charters and Caldicott simply are the proof that two ordinary English gentlemen can become some of the most interesting characters in a film.

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I would like to thank Moon in Gemini for hosting this fun blogathon! It was a perfect occasion for me to finally watch Crook’s Tour and Millions Like Us that I had never seen before. The Charters and Caldicott’s films are all brilliant in their own way.

Don’t forget to read the other entries!

You Gotta Have Friends Blogathon Day 1

You Gotta Have Friends Blogathon Day 2

You Gotta Have Friends Blogathon Day 3

See you!

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Fun picture of Nauton Wayne, Margaret Lockwood and Basil Radford on the set of Night Train to Munich
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Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara: Movie History’s Most Iconic Character

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Today, on November 5th, the fascinating and tragic Vivien Leigh would have turned 103. Unfortunately, this lady who had the beauty of a goddess left us too soon at the age of 53 in 1967.

But Vivien Leigh will never be forgotten had she had made her proofs as a talented actress, both in movies and on stage.

People continue to honour her such as my friend Joseph from Wolffian Classics Movies Digest who is hosting this week the Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier Blogathon.

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Because we remember, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier were married. If I’m not wrong, they starred in three movies together and often appeared on stage alongside each other. If things haven’t always been easy for the Oliviers, they remained one of the most iconic couples in movie history. Oh, and they looked so beautiful together!

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So, participants will today talk both about Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier’s movies.

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As I chose an Olivier’s movie last year (Spartacus), I’ve decided to go with a Vivien Leigh’s one this time. Of course, I could have chosen one starring both such as Lady Hamilton, for example, but I felt like it was time for me to write about the one she’s most remembered for: Gone With the Wind! Yes, Vivien could never run away from this film, but it’s because she was born to be Scarlett O’Hara. No one could have been better than her! We all know she won the Best Actress Oscar that year and that was highly deserved.

Directed by Victor Flemming, George Cukor and Sam Wood (both uncredited), and released in 1939, Gone With the Wind won no less than 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Hattie McDaniel) and Best Adapted Screenplay, plus two honorary Oscars. The film was a huge commercial success and, if we consider the inflation, it remains at the top the highest-grossing films of all times.

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An adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s bestseller, this epic fresco tells the story of southern Bell Scarlett O’Hara in the times of the America Civil War; her love for Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard) who will marry Melanie Hamilton (Olivia de Havilland); her troubles in Atlanta while the city is attacked by the Yankees; her hard times in Tara, her hometown after, the war has started but, most of all: her love-hate relationship with the notorious Capt. Rhett Butler (Clark Gable).

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All this is resumed very briefly, even if it’s a long film, but telling too much would be like not telling enough. Plus, I have no doubt most of you saw the film. Or if you haven’t, you will most certainly do one day.

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As I’m honouring Vivien Leigh today, I’m here only to talk about her performance in the film. Yes, there is so much to say about Gone With the Wind: the costumes, the cinematography, the other actors, the script, etc., but that should be for another time.

When she was cast for the role, Vivien Leigh was a stranger to the American audience. She was born in British India from an English mother and father. So, before GWTW, she had only starred in British films such as Fire Over England or Storm in a Teacup. Among the final actresses choices for the role of Scarlett were also Joan Bennett and Paulett Goddard. They could have been great, but Vivien Leigh was a true revelation.

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The public and journalists were first no too keen on the idea that a British should play a Sudist, and such an important role, but they soon realized they were wrong to complain. Vivien Leigh, who had a beautiful British Accent, managed to keep her so well articulated voice that makes any languages beautiful, but succeed to use the proper American accent for the role of Scarlett.

It was not an easy thing to do, filming Gone With the Wind. I’m currently ready Kendra Bean’s Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait and, of course, I’ve learned a lot about the actress and also about the movie itself. What was first announced to be a dream for Vivien Leigh turned out to be an exhausting and not so enchanting work, resulting her to cross the days on the calendar during the shooting. She was mostly disappointed with Victor Flemming’s chosen dimension for Scarlett, making her much more a like a “bitch” than the courageous women who was portrayed by Margaret Mitchell. The lack of motivation from Vivien can be understandable in this case. However, a true professional and with a baggage of multiple acting talents, Vivien Leigh managed to give everything she had to conceive the best on screen Scarlett O’Hara no one could have possibly dreamt about.

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Vivien Leigh surely preferred the directing methods of George Cukor, who first started to direct the picture, but was then replaced by macho Victor Flemming. However, her and Olivia de Havilland kept seeing Cukor to improve their part. He was excellent at directing women and they could probably learn more from him than Victor Flemming.

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I’ve always liked the character of Scarlett O’Hara because she makes me think of me. She is coquette, likes beautiful things. She likes to be admired by people. She’s selfish, but despite that, she thinks of others. She creates a carapace around her, but she remains a sensible person. She does that “face” when she’s jealous. Pretty much like me. I hope I don’t sound like a too horrible person… But Scarlett is also one of the bravest story characters.

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Even me and Vivien Leigh have common physical features. I’m not her twin, of course, but we both have dark hair and blue-grey eyes (however, hers are paler than mines).

Anyway, I guess that’s why I’ve always liked this character. I remember when I was reading the book, some Scarlett’s moments made me think: “Oh, but that’s so me!”

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Vivien Leigh, of course, gave life to this fictional novel character by choosing the right active game. She gave brilliance to Scarlett O’Hara in the way she chose to move, talk, look, etc. All that is expected from an actress.

Vivien Leigh’s acting game for Gone With the Wind can sometimes be said to be theatrical, but it’s not. Yes, her voice tone sometimes gives us this impression, but it’s more a tragic one than a theatrical one. And it’s used in the perfect moments for it: when Ashley denies her at the Twelve Oaks’ ball, when she discovers her mother has died, or when Rhett decides to leave her at the end.

Yes, the voice was one of the elements with whom Vivien Leigh’s played so well to express her character’s nature. When Scarlett is happy or she talks loud she uses a high-pitched voice. I can think of this moment at the beginning when she runs to see her father who is horse riding. She arrives, running like a little girl with her coquette white dress, saying “Pa! Pa!” and laughing. Absolutely adorable.

However, Scarlett’s natural tone of voice is lower and we hear it often when she is with Rhett and especially when she’s angry at him. Vivien chose a “fake” voice of tone for her scenes with Ashley, to prove that Scarlett isn’t acting herself when she’s with him. She pretends too much, in order to please him.

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Voice comes out of the mouth and who says “mouth” says “smile”. How can we forget that adorable smile that Vivien Leigh puts on Scarlett’s face? Despite her beautiful eyes, her majestic gowns, I believe her smile is the most enchanting thing about her. She looks younger when she smiles. We love this smiling moment in the second part of the film when she wakes up after her torrid night with Rhett. We like this face of joy when she is about to dance with Rhett. Scarlett O’Hara’s happy moments are rare, as she’s going through a lot in these hard times of war, so they are appreciated.

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Vivien Leigh doesn’t make great gestures like people in silent movies or at the theatre, but she uses her look at its full potential to express her emotions. That’s why we often see close-ups of Vivien Leigh, to accentuate Scarlett’s feelings, but also her change of emotions. Because yes, while we’re watching the film, we notice how Vivien Leigh is able to switch from one emotion to another with great easiness. A real chameleon!

We all remember this face with the eyebrow that Vivien Leigh used to express jealousy or concern. One of the most memorable shots of the film:

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At the beginning of the movie, when she learns that Ashley is going to marry Melanie, the sad look on her face seems honest.

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When Melanie sees Ashley arriving at Tara and runs to him: Scarlett’s happy look that goes quickly to be replaced by a disappointed face when Mammy reminds her that he is her husband.

The fear in her eyes when she is aggressed by this Yankee

The terror in her eyes when both her father and her daughter have a horse accident.

This languorous look when she seduces men.

And there’s a lot to be mentioned. Surely, Scarlett O’Hara wouldn’t have been the same without those iconic facial expressions.

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That makes me think. As much as Scarlett O’Hara is a tragic character, she can be a funny girl and makes us laugh. This occurs in the first part of the film. Two moments I can think of are this scene when she refuses to eat before going to the BBQ (Mammy finally convinces her).

Another funny Scarlett O’Hara moments I love are those when she sees Rhett coming out from behind the couch after her fight with Ashley, and also when she sees him arriving at the auction ball. Her traumatized face is simply hilarious. Like “what is he doing here???”

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Vivien Leigh also proved to have good on-screen chemistry with her fellow actors. But I think the one with whom she had the best chemistry were Clark Gable, who plays Rhett; Hattie McDaniel, who plays Mammy and Barbara O’Neil who plays Scarlett’s mother. Vivien Leigh’s moments with these actors are some of the most delightful in the film. Of course, she also has beautiful scenes with Olivia de Havilland and both actresses managed to fairly share the screen together without stealing each other’s aura.

It’s too bad there isn’t more moment between Scarlett and her mother because those are full of tenderness and proves us their love for each other.

But Vivien Leigh was also able to choose the right attitude with characters with whom Scarlett has no chemistry at all. Here, I’m mainly thinking of India Wilkes and Suellen O’Hara. They and Scarlett simply cannot stand each other and just acts like hypocrites together.

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We’ve talked a lot about Vivien Leigh’s acting talent in Gone With the Wind, but I can’t leave you without honouring her great beauty. I mean, Vivien always looks glorious in Gone with the Wind, even when she’s wearing widow gowns or rags. As I said previously, this beauty resides in her smile, but also in her great big eyes. Vivien Leigh certainly was one of the most beautiful actresses to ever grace the screen.

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As for the gown she’s wearing in the film, despite their variety, they all suit her perfectly and simply accentuate her beauty. Those were brilliantly created by Walter Plunkett.

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Yes, Vivien Leigh will always be associated to Scarlett O’Hara for the better and the worse, but especially for the better. It is after all with this role that she truly became a star. It’s also because of her magical performance that Scarlett O’Hara is the most iconic female characters in movie history (perhaps alongside Holly Golightly). Well, that’s my opinion. Gone with the Wind has always been one of my favourite movies and Vivien Leigh is one of the major reasons why.

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Even if she’s unfortunately not with us anymore, I want to wish a happy heavenly birthday to our dear Vivien Leigh! Wherever you are Vivien…

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Hitchcock’s Dangerous Waters

Hitchcock’s films have been analyzed through various subjects. They are recognizable for having common points, both in their narrative and technical aspects. We know Hitchcock liked cool blondes, “wrong men”, murders, stairs, trains, cameos, etc. But a subject that isn’t talked much about is the importance of water in his films. I was thinking about this recently and, generally, water in Hitchcock’s film is associated with danger or, at least, to something not positive.

I had the idea of writing about this as, yesterday, in class, we were talking about two Lucia Puenzo’s movies, XXY and The Fish Child. In both movies, water is associated with something calm, something not menacing and beautiful. And then I thought, “Oh not like in Hitchcock’s films!” Because Hitchcock obviously always comes to my mind…

How is the element water used in Hitchcock’s films? That’s what I’ll explore today through 17 of his films. I might reveal some spoilers, so be careful. There are movies I might not be discussing if I haven’t seen them already.

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MURDER:

Generally, water is associated with murder in Hitchcock movies. What always first comes to our mind when we think about Hitchcock movies is the famous shower scene from Psycho. Here, we could also associate this shower to vulnerability. Marion Crane is trapped like a mouse. There’s no way she can get out and save herself.  Why did the murderer decide to kill her in the shower? Let’s precise that Hitchcock did not invent that original murder, but Robert Bloch in his book of the same name. But anyway, why the shower? My theories are that it is a place where the victim becomes highly vulnerable like I previously said, but also where the blood is easier to wash. I’ve always liked this scene when Norman Bates cleans the blood in the bathtub after the murder. It’s all washed very quickly and easily. He doesn’t have to scrub during hours.

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Psycho, yes, is the first film we’ll think about when we mention water and murder while discussing Hitchcock’s films, but it’s certainly not the only one. A movie where water is absolutely like hell is the not so often talked about Jamaica Inn. Based on the novel of the same name by Daphné Du Maurier, it takes place on the Cornwall coast. Without going into the whole movie plot, the main problematic involves a bunch of criminals who provoke shipwrecks by turning off the light of the lighthouse on the coast. As a result, the boats dart on the rocky coast and sink. The survivors are then killed by the men and are abandoned in the water like the boats and the rest of the already dead crew. The criminals then steal the boats from their possessions. Unlike Psycho, this involves mass murder. The concept is very interesting, although I’ve always thought those men were going through a lot to reach their goal… Jamaica Inn is a very dark film. Water here is not only associated with murder, but also to barbarism. Poor Mary Yellen’s uncle is one of them. He and the other men are people with no manners and no consideration. They are more like beasts than humans, unlike [spoiler] Norman Bates, who remains a someone with manners despite his wrong actions (of course, we only discover at the end that HE is the murderer). [end of spoiler]. But of course, here we’re comparing someone with a mental case to common thieves with no common sense.

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Then, there is Saboteur. Here, it’s not complicated, one of Frank Fry’s hideous sabotage plans consist in the explosion of a boat. The struggle between Fry and Kane in the truck where the detonator remains among the most stressful scenes in Hitchcock’s filmography. Will Kane succeed to stop Fry from pushing the detonator? Unfortunately, no. The boat explodes under the eyes of terrified people. Here, what we associate with water is simply the boat. No need to explain why. One of the most memorable shots of the film is when Fry, sat in a car, sees the boat lying on its side in the water, and does this creepy criminal smile. By the way, Norman Lloyd, the oldest Hollywood actor will turn 102 years old next November 8! Very soon! 🙂

The last movie we’ll talk about is Strangers on a Train. Here, it concerns Miriam’s murder. Remember, Bruno Anthony kills her on the Lovers Island at the amusement park. The island is obviously surrounded by water, which allows the murderer to escape in his boat and go back on the solid ground. Here, the victim is not directly killed in the water like in Jamaica Inn or Psycho, but her murder takes place next to a watercourse.

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AFTER THE MURDER…

Sometimes, the victim in Hitchcock’s film would not necessarily have been murdered in  the water, but would be found in a watercourse, simply because that’s where the murderer decided to get rid of her. This refers to the famous cliché that murderers get rid of their victims by throwing them in a lake, a river, the sea, etc. Once again, water is associated to something creepy. I mean, who would like to go swim in a bay where a corpse has been found?

The first film we’ll think about is Young and Innocent. It’s poor Robert who discovers the dead body of actress Christine Clay while he’s walking on the beach. First, we see a hand appearing among the waves (kind of creepy) and then the whole corpse. But the presence of a belt as well let us know that she didn’t drown, but had been murdered by strangulation.

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Then there is Rebecca. During the whole movie, we think Rebecca died in a boat accident until we learn that she, in fact, died in her little house by the sea. [spoiler] In the novel she is killed by her husband Max the Winter, but in the film, she dies by falling and hurting her head (always in the presence of Max). But in both cases, Max decides to get rid of the corpse by putting it in the sailing ship and arranges for it to sink, so people would believe in an accident.[end of spoiler]. The ocean is menacing in Rebecca. This one seems always in movement, never calm and highly impressive. [spoiler] Rebecca’s boat and the corpse are found in the stressful climax of the film. [end of spoiler] If you have read Daphné du Maurier’s novel, it describes how, even if the west wing’s rooms give a beautiful view of the sea, the east wing’s rooms are more peaceful having a view on the garden. Precisely because there’s something, yes, beautiful, but also menacing and violent about the ocean, especially on windy nights.

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In To Catch a Thief, water is first associated with something casual and pleasant when France and John swim in the Mediterranean on a sunny day, until [spoiler] Foussard is killed. He is knocked out on the head and falls into the sea from a high cliff. We remember his inert face, with the eyes open, when he is found. Quite a shock for the poor guy…[end of spoiler]

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We then get back to Psycho, where water becomes important, not only during the shower scene, but also in those sequences where Norman Bates gets rid of the victim’s cars. And where does he put them? In the dirty pond! Clever. Here, water is used to hide something. Marion Crane’s car is fished out at the end of the film. We know her body is in the trunk of the car, but we’re thankful those details are not shown to us. Hugh!

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To wrap up on this category, the last film we should mention in Frenzy. At the beginning, one of the victims of the “necktie murderer” is found in the Thames under the terrified reactions of the Londoners. Mind the river.

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Murderers seem not to have understood something: even if you throw a body in the water, it will always come back to the surface… Better bury him!

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SUICIDE

A delicate subject, suicide has not been as much present as murder in Hitchcock movies, but it’s there. The first film that comes to our mind when we think about suicide in Hitchcock films is Vertigo. Remember, Scottie follows Madeleine (well, that’s what he thinks…) and, when they arrived next to the Golden Gate (the story takes place in San Francisco), she throws herself in the San Francisco Bay. Ironically, the Golden Gate is known as the bridge where the biggest amount of suicides was committed in North America. The second one is the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal where I live (…). Anyway, Madeleine creates an association between her and water by choosing this way of killing herself. Luckily, Scottie manages to rescue her. Poor Kim Novak, she really couldn’t swim. Hitchcock could be harsh on his actresses…

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Chloé from the mediocre film The Skin Game does the same and kill herself by falling into a pool. To be honest, I don’t really know why. It’s not a very good film, so I kind of forgot about it.

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Finally, Hitchcock’s early silent film The Manxman also contains a suicide scene when Kate elegantly throws herself in the water. Her wedding life was not going too well…

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A beautiful dramatical shot

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BOATS

Water also becomes dangerous when you are on a boat and this one sinks… This was used at its full potential in Hitchcock’s Lifeboat. After a boat as been sunk by the German army, its survivors find themselves surviving on a lifeboat, for an undetermined period. What will happen to them? They are lost, forever alone in this huge ocean. But “water” here is also a synonym of “hope”. They hope for rain, as they practically have nothing to drink. This Hitchcock’s film, where all the action takes place on the ocean is one of his most thrilling.

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There’s also an important scene in Rich and Strange that involves a boat sinking. That’s what happens to Emily and Fred at the end of their cruise. The poor ones think they are at the end of their life, but, luckily, they are saved by another boat. We remember when they are locked up in their room and the water starts coming through the door. It seems to be the end, but, when they wake up, Fred and Emily realizes they are not dead. That would have been too dramatic for such a film.

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OTHER

There are four more films I briefly want to mention that are also related to water in Hitchcock’s films.

First, there’s Sabotage. In this film, the two saboteurs have a secret meeting in an aquarium. It’s indeed a very special place to have a meeting. Of course, it’s a calm place, there are not too many people and the fish cannot really hear them… This is a very special scene in the film. Shot in an interesting visual way.

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Second, The Birds takes place in Bodega Bay. The bay is part of the pacific ocean and it’s in this little Californian town that aggressive birds will attack people. Once again, the menace is happening next to a watercourse. We see a lot of seagulls in The Birds, which birds that NORMALLY live by the sea (if there’s not a McDonald around…)

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Third, Roger Thornhill almost falls from a cliff when he is driving his car, drunk. Vandamm and his gang hoped to kill him this way, but, obviously, Thornhill manages to save his skin. Well, it would have been too weird if Cary Grant would have died in the first minutes of the film, no?…

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Finally, water becomes associated with danger at the end of Number 17, when the train, that goes at a very high speed, falls into the sea. The film is not a very good one, but that’s a moment we don’t forget. And, as much as the water is menacing for the train, by falling into it, the train also becomes a menace for the water as it pollutes it. Yes, we must have an environmental conscience, even when we watch Hitchcock’s movies! 😉

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There are some movies that I might not have mentioned that also use water as an object of fear and danger. I think there’s a plane that crashes in the ocean in Foreign Correspondent, no? But I preferred not to develop on the subject as I haven’t seen the film yet and didn’t want to say anything that could be wrong.

Well,  as always, there’s always so much to say about one specific subject in a Hitchcock film! I hope this was interesting!

See you! 🙂

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